Cass McCombs Humor Risk
  • MONDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2011

  • Posted by: Stefanie Wray

I wish Cass McCombs had taken more risks and employed the playful humor of past albums in his second full length album of the year, Humor Risk. The album has all of the soft familiarity we've come to expect from Cass McCombs, with his understated and soothing sound, but lacks the overt playfulness of, for example, "Dreams-Come-True-Girl" (off Catacombs). Still, it's a good listen—it makes a relaxing soundtrack for long drives or casual dinner parties.

"Love Thine Enemy" kicks things off on a sincere and simple note, with low organs and William Blake-like sentiments such as "without earthworms/how else would the soil keep clean?" From there he moves into a softer number, "The Living World," with shifts that reminds me of Badly Drawn Boy. The harmonies are beautiful and subtle on this song; happily the theme continues for the rest of the album, as do engaging lyrics such as: "LRH met Ho Chi Minh in Paris, 1939/ Not that it matters the names, the place, or the time."

I was on a run the first time I listened to this album, so "The Same Thing" was a welcome change, with upbeat acoustic guitar and what sounds like a harpsichord in the Donovan inspired chorus. Alas, things slowed down again until the fun and summery "Robin Egg Blue." "Mystery Mail" sounds sort of like "Sister Ray" on an extreme diet. This is perhaps the most accessible song, but frankly, it's a bit boring.

The standout track is the closer, "Mariah." The jangling guitar and soulful electric swoops build to a slow burn that perfectly complements McCombs' sweet lyrical performance. The lyrics are simple, but evoke a smoldering, timeless image of "Mariah, standing next to the fire/brimming with desire." It's easy to imagine Mariah next to a pot belly stove on an old farm, or one of those remote controlled fires in a Hollywood Villa. That's what I like about Cass McCombs; he isn't tied down to a time or place. Mirroring his personal life, his music is nomadic, and consequently, always fresh and pleasant to experience.










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